Team orders were the buzz words at the end of an action packed and dramatic Malaysian Grand Prix weekend, and central to the controversy were the Mercedes team who from the pitwall ordered their drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to hold station towards the end of the race.
Problem was that Rosberg was adamant he could go quicker, while Hamilton was clearly slower but not keen to relinquish third place. The duo, who were teammates in the lower formulae and are good friends off track, battled it out wheel to wheel and swapped places until the call came to stop the duel.
On lap 51 Rosberg declared on the radio: “I’m so much faster, let me go past.”
Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn replied: “Negative Nico, negative. Lewis’ pace is what we’re asking him to do. He could go a lot faster as well.”
Rosberg continued to run under Hamilton’s wing, showing his frustration with a stab here and there prompting Brawn to say, “Nico please drop back, there’s nothing to gain. I want to bring both cars home please.”
Hamilton finished in third place, with Rosberg fourth and responded to Brawn’s praise over the radio by saying, “Remember this one.”
At the end of the race Brawn said, “We had to take some measures to ensure that both cars finished. We asked Lewis and Nico to hold position and both drivers respected that. Whilst it was tough for Nico and I fully expect him to be disappointed, we have now got a car we can fight with and that there will be plenty more opportunities to achieve good results this season.”
Rosberg who was embraced by Hamilton when they emerged from their cars in parc ferme said, “It was a great day for us as a team and we can be very happy of our performance here this weekend. Of course, it was disappointing for me having to hold position but I understand the team’s decision to safeguard our positions and to make sure that both cars got to the end with a strong team finish, especially in light of the tough times behind us.”
The German added, “There are a lot of races to go and our performance today makes me look forward to fighting for more podium finishes in the future.”
Hamilton, who appeared coy and subdued on the podium, said, “I have to say big congratulations to Nico. He drove a smarter and more controlled race than me this afternoon and deserved to finish where I did. The team made the call for us to hold positions and we both respected that.” (GP247)